TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A jacket with a built-in cooling fan in the back has become a must for workers engaging in physical labour in Japan's scorching summer.
The jacket has already gained favour in workplaces such as construction and logistics sites, and now unisex designs that can be worn on casual occasions are also increasingly popular.
"Whether this item is supplied (by employers) will be a decisive factor in the number of responses to job offers," a workwear retailer said.
A removable fan and battery can be attached to the jacket to cool the body by blowing air into it and evaporating the wearer's sweat. Most batteries have a large capacity, with a charge that can last throughout the workday.
The set is priced at around 20,000 yen (S$260) and can be purchased online.
The creator is Kabushikigaisha Kuchofuku - literary translated as "air-conditioning clothing company" - based in Itabashi ward, Tokyo.
Originally a gauge manufacturer, the company released in 2004 its first built-in fan, which ran for only three to four hours and would often break down.
After a series of improvements, the company launched in 2009 a model that could perform for eight hours straight. Around that time, the number of people wearing the clothing started to increase rapidly thanks to word of mouth.
The special clothing has been bought in bulk by construction companies. Due partly to Japan's increasingly hot summers, the jacket has seen a big boom for the last couple of years, a Kuchofuku employee said.
Casual lines have become available at stores this summer, in addition to the conventional workwear designs.
"We aimed for developing something that would look just fine on anybody," a company spokesman said.
Thanks to a recent trend of loose-fitting casual fashions, a puffy silhouette created by blowing air inside the jacket would not make the wearer look strange. The jacket also seems to be easy to coordinate with other clothes.
The leading force behind this casual workwear is Burtle, known as a stylish workwear manufacturer. The company, based in Fuchu, Hiroshima prefecture, uses camel colour, herringbone patterns or other unusual fabrics for workwear, and releases slender motorcycle rider jacket-looking workwear.
The jackets have gained popularity, as they can be worn outside work.
Burtle entered the built-in fan clothing market in spring 2017. The company's jackets look slim even when their fans are working, and their designs make them suitable both for work and casual wear.
"They sell well in summer in the Kansai region, where Koshien Stadium is located," a Burtle spokesman said, referring to the National High School Baseball Championship that the ballpark hosts every mid-summer.
This spring, major workwear retailer Workman, based in Isesaki, Gunma prefecture, released its Wind Core brand.
The company, known as a casual workwear lines retailer, has adopted for its new brand designs and hues that are often used for outdoor clothing, aiming to "appeal to outdoor events and sports watching wear".
Major sporting goods manufacturers and other companies have asked Workman to jointly develop products for spectators at next summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.